Gay Dad Life

The Human Limits of a Superhuman Single Gay Dad

After decades of fostering at-risk children in Missouri, Allen Bangs adopted two kids — a brother and sister. In the next three years, he adopted four more. Experience the incredible journey of one out father’s struggle to create a family — and keep it together.

Allen Bangs talks with pride about how much his middle son, 16-year-old Zackery, has developed since Bangs adopted him eight years ago. The young man makes good grades, competes on his school’s swim team and works part-time at his father’s hotel in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He’s years away from the quiet, withdrawn boy that came into Allen’s foster home in Springfield, Missouri, nearly a decade ago.

Still, Allen pushes to undo the damage, the abuse that put Zackery in the foster system in the first place.

“Years and years ago,” he says, “Zackery’s biological mother sent him a train set. He’s never opened it — to deal with that connection — but he hangs onto it. He has that memory. It’s something.”

That unopened train set is not only a reminder of a painful past for Allen’s son, but also the lessons Allen has learned as a foster and adoptive father.

“I thought when I took these kids in that you could love them to death and that was going to cure everything in their background,” he says. “But it’s about everything else that comes with it — all the baggage. And it doesn’t go away.”

If anyone knows that, it’s Allen. The 52-year-old single gay father has six adopted children from his years as a foster father in Missouri. He started with Zackery and his biological sister, Toshia, in 2007, and over three years his family snowballed until he had six children under his care — as young as 4 months to as old as 14 years.

“It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t my plan. My plan initially was just to have two,” Allen says. “After I had Zackery and Toshia, social services would just call me if a need came up. And there was always a need. There are so many kids in foster care and not enough homes.”

Siblings Kadijah and Kaden came into care next as young teens. Kadijah, 13, was pregnant and gave birth to Maleah while Allen was fostering her. Within weeks, state services had determined to take Maleah away from her mother and into the system.

“I never planned on having an infant, but after spending four weeks with Maleah, I just couldn’t let her go into the system,” Allen says.

He adopted Maleah, then Kaden, then Kadijah.

About this time, 13-year-old Christopher came into foster care. “It was just supposed to be for a weekend,” Allen says. “But he was so broken, I knew the moment he came into my house that he would not leave.”

Allen had been a foster parent since he was in his 20s in Arkansas. But even with his experience caring for children in the system, loving and raising his six children in Springfield proved to be the biggest challenge of his life. Most of the children came to him with histories of physical and sexual abuse, as well as drug use.

“It was an emotional roller coaster. It has been since day one when I had all six of the kids in the house,” he says. “There was so much drama in Springfield with the three older kids (Kadijah, Kaden and Christopher). Something was always going on, the police were always over at the house. You had periods of time where they would try to be part of the family, and then something would happen and they would do just the opposite.”

Allen loves all his children, but he confesses that foster children at a certain age naturally come with a certain risk. “Any child in the system over the age of 10 is considered a high-risk child,” he says. “The three kids I got when they were 13 or 14, you can’t just go back and undo everything they’ve been through. So basically all you can do is try and show them that there’s a different life out there and that they can have a different life. But you also have to realize that you can’t go back and undo all the damage that has been done.”

Allen with his three youngest kids

His three oldest children all moved out of the house when they turned 18. “We’re trying to rebuild a relationship, but the trust is all gone,” he says.

When his oldest children left, Allen made the tough call. In 2012, he gathered up his three youngest — Zackery, Toshia and Maleah — and left Springfield, Missouri. He returned to northwest Arkansas.

“I wanted to restart our life and give us some normalcy,” he says. “I love my kids, but I realized I wasn’t going to sacrifice my three youngest kids for my three older kids.”

Back in Arkansas, the kids have found a new normal, and Allen has returned to his roots. He remembers how he felt coming out to his family as a young man and pushing to convince them that he, too, could one day raise a family.

“When you come out as being gay to your family, you automatically assume that all your dreams and all your wants aren’t going to happen,” he says. “I became a foster dad to prove to myself and to my family that I could have a 'normal’ life. I didn’t need a wife to have children. This was about making my dreams come true.”

Allen was open to all of his kids about his sexual identity when he adopted them in Missouri. “We’ve never made it a huge issue,” he says. “Being gay can be as little or as big as you want it to be. Honestly, I could be green for all my kids care. It’s about the love and the attention that they feel. They need it from someone.”

The father has dated men, even introducing a few to the kids. But he remains a single father.

“There is no more me,” he says. “The kids’ needs come first. I’ve never been a bar fly, I’ve never felt like I need to go out and be with other gay people. That’s just not me. I’m sure I need to be more like that. I’m 52, and I don’t want to be alone for the rest of my life. But to be honest, I don’t know when I’d find time to cultivate a relationship. And honestly, most of the gay men I’ve met don’t understand the commitment to kids — especially these kids.”

As his youngest children get older, he has started to make some changes. He left a career as a registered nurse to work in hospitality as a hotel operations manager, so he could have the flexibility to be there for his kids if something happened at school or home. He recently took on a home-health patient with Alzheimer’s disease, to get back into the medical field.

“We have a relaxed life,” Allen says. “We have a very quiet life.”

In this quiet life, his children have been able to flourish, particularly Zackery, who considers his time with Allen the truest part of his life.

“I love my family,” Zackery says. “Even if we are not normal to other people, we’ve reached a point where we’re normal to each other. This is the part of my life where I was able to function and mature and develop in a healthy way. Even though there were family problems with my other siblings, it never really compared to what had happened before.”

Zackery sees Allen as the only father that he has ever known. “By signing the adoption papers, something finally felt real. I had a father. I had someone who not only had to take care of me, but wanted to take care of me. It felt good, strange — a little late. But it was still there.”

The 16-year-old admits that going through the foster system was one of the hardest experiences he’s ever had in his life. “After going through three different homes, it seems like it’s not going to end, ever,” he says. “But it does. And you realize your real family is the people who will care for you.”

Allen with Zackery (left), Toshia (13, center) and Maleah (6, back middle)

Allen looks back at his journey and wishes he could have done more for all his children — studied their cases harder, moved out of Springfield earlier. He still hopes that all his children can escape their pasts one day, and he encourages other prospective gay fathers to understand the responsibility that comes with bringing these children into their homes.

“You have to look inside yourself and see if you really have the ability to be selfless,” he says. “These kids come to you, and they are damaged. They have endured unspeakable things, and they just really want to be loved. They want boundaries, they want some normalcy in their lives. You have to search deep within.”

He pauses. “Are we perfect? No, not by any stretch of the imagination. But we are a family.”


Show Comments ()
Gay Dad Life

8 Ways for Dads to Find Work/Life Balance

Finding work/life balance is hard enough... but can be even harder for gay dads.

Having kids is an amazing part of life, and it should be fun. Life does tend to get in the way sometimes, and one huge aspect of that is work. Striking that balance between work and home life is tough. If you both work it's even harder.

And if you're a gay couple, it can have it's own set of problems above and beyond the standard work-life issues that people face. Recently, the Harvard Business Review conducted a study that focused specifically on the experiences of same-sex couples who wanted to make moves towards a work/life balance.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

'NolaPapa' Launches YouTube Channel: Story of a Gay Dad

Check out Erik Alexander's new YouTune Channel: Story of a Gay Dad

When we first found out that our second daughter was African American I froze. Not because of her race, but because I knew NOTHING about African American hair. So I frantically tried to learn as much as I could while she was a newborn so I was ready to style it when she was a little older.

I decided to launch our YouTube channel Nolapapa: Story of a Gay Dad to focus on this very topic! Episodes 1-5 will solely be dedicated to learning how to wash, care for and styling African American hair. Afterwards, the content will shift towards personal & family situations, adoption, gay parenting questions and other great content! I'd love your support and become part of our little village as we launch this new project!

Sending Nola love to each of ya!

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

Encouraged by His Son, Single Dad Richard Started Dating Again — and Just Got Married!

After his 14 year relationship ended, Richard got a gentle push into the dating pool from an unexpected source — his son!

In 2014, Richard Rothman's relationship of 15 years ended, leaving him understandably reluctant to jump back into the world of dating as a single gay dad. But after spending one too many Friday nights at home, he got a gentle nudge from somebody unexpected —his teenaged son, Jonathan.

"Dad," Jonathan said. "Would you just get out of the house and go on a date already?" (You may remember wise-beyond-his-years Jonathan from this post that went viral of a tattoo he got commemorating his adoption day.)

On his son's encouragement, Richard started dipping a tentative toe back into the dating pool. In 2015, he met Kevin thanks to mutual friends that introduced them via social media. It took four months before Richard introduced Kevin to his son, who was a Sophomore in high school at the time.

On New Year's Eve in 2017, Kevin proposed while the couple was vacationing in Palm Springs. The city has an outdoor festival every year, he explained, which the couple attended. The band Plain White T's happened to be performing their hit "Hey There Delilah" as Kevin got down on one knee and proposed. "Now whenever I hear that song it brings back memories of that night," Richard said.

Richard and Kevin married on March 30, 2019 back at the scene of the crime — in Palm Springs, at the Frederick Loewe Estate. Jonathan was Richard's best man, and also walked him down the aisle (awwww.....). Kevin's brother Bobby served as his best man.

"As so many wonderful moments continue to happen for us in Palm Springs, we now own a home there in addition to our primary residence in Bentonville, Arkansas," said Richard.

Check out video from the couple's special day below!

And Jonathan is now an E4 Master-at-Arms in the US Navy.

Today is National Coming Out Day, and as we celebrate, we're sharing six coming out stories from dads in our community. Their personal stories are heartwarming, relatable, and empowering. Happy Coming Out Day, and remember, live your truth!

Keep reading... Show less
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Growing a Thicker Skin

Experiencing hateful and hurtful comments, Erik Alexander had to learn an important lesson: how to ignore the trolls.

Photo credit: BSA Photography

Twenty years ago when I came out, it was unbearably hard. As I have written before, I am from the Deep South. Anyone who dared to deviate from social norms was sure to be ostracized. It's not that these people were born hateful or mean; rather, it probably had more to do with them not being subjected to other lifestyles. Anything different from their own experiences sparked fear and confusion. Homosexuality, interracial relationships, religious differences – these were all unfamiliar territories to the average person I grew up around. Thus, growing up was particularly difficult.

I remember lying in bed at night when I was a little boy. I would pray and beg God to not let me be gay. Every single night I would end my prayers with "... and God, please don't let me have nightmares and please don't let me be gay." I remember crying myself to sleep many nights. I was embarrassed and ashamed. And I wanted God to cure me.

Keep reading... Show less
Change the World

10 Inspiring Coming Out Stories From Gay Dads

Happy National Coming Out Day! To celebrate, we've rounded up some of our recent stories about gay men with kids coming out to live their most authentic lives.

Happy National Coming Out Day! To celebrate, we've rounded up some of our best articles of gay dads coming out to live their authentic lives.

#1. Former NFL Player Jeff Rohrer, and Father of Two, Comes Out as Gay and Marries Longterm Partner

Jeff Rohrer, a father of two teenage boys via a previous relationship with a woman, is the first NFL player to marry another man. Read the article here.

#2. Coming Out to His Wife Was Painful, Says This Salt Lake-Based Dad of Four. But it Started Him on a Path of Authenticity

After Kyle came out to his wife, with whom he has four children, "she listened, she mourned and she loved," he said. Read the article here.

#3. Gay Dads Share Their Coming Out Stories for National Coming Out Day

We asked several gay dads to share their coming out stories in honor of National Coming Out Day, whose stories are heartwarming, instructive, and everything in between. Read the article here.

#4. Gay Muslim Single Dad Writes Op Ed on His Path to Self Acceptance

Maivon Wahid writes about the challenges of reconciling three separate, but equally important, identities in an opinion piece for Gay Star News. Read the article here.

#5. One Gay Dad's Path Towards Realizing Being Gay and Christian are Not Mutually Exclusive

Gay dads Matt and David Clark-Sally talk about coming out, parenting as gay men, and reconciling faith and sexuality. Read the article here.

#6. Republican Utah Lawmaker, and Dad of Two, Comes Out as Gay in Moving Video

Nathan Ivie has many important identities he's proud of: Mormon, Republican, Utahn, father of two... and gay. Read the article here.

#7. How Coming Out Helped This Gay Man Find the Strength to Be a Dad

Steven Kerr shares the moment he came out to his ex-girlfriend. "From that moment on," he writes, "my strength and purpose have grown." Read the article here.

#8. Ed Smart, Father of Kidnapping Victim Elizabeth Smart, Comes Out as Gay

In coming his coming out letter, Ed Smart, a Mormon, condemned the church for their "ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation" of LGBTQ individuals. Read the article here.

#9. The Best Part of Coming Out, Says This Gay Dad, Is Being an Out and Proud Role Model for His Daughter

"I couldn't face myself in the mirror and think that I could be a good dad and role model for my child when I was lying to myself every moment of every day," said Nate Wormington of his decision to come out. Read the article here.

#10. These Gay Dads Via Previous Marriages Have Adopted a Motto Since Coming Out and Finding Each Other: "United We Stand"

Vincent and Richard both had children in previous marriages with women; together, with their ex-wives, they are helping raise seven beautiful kids. Read the article here.

Gay Dad Family Stories

These Adoptive Dads Gained an Extended Family Through Foster Care

Adoptive dads Edward and Andrew have maintained a close relationship with their twins' biological family.

Celebrating gay, bi and trans fatherhood is what we do on Gays With Kids. We rejoice in whatever paths our community took to become parents. But many of those journeys come with heartbreak, sometimes for the intended parents, and sometimes for the biological family from whom the adoption or foster placement occurs. With an open adoption, the adoptive and biological families come to an arrangement which best benefits the child, and that's when something truly beautiful can occur. This isn't always possible in every scenario, but when it does, we're exceedingly thankful. Can a child ever have too many family members loving them? Not likely. This was husbands of five years Edward and Andrew Senn's experience.

Keep reading... Show less

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse